We’ve covered a lot of topics on the business side of creative / non-creative writing lately. But now it’s time to get back into talking about the story itself that you’re writing on the paper (or typing on your computer) to market. First order of business: re-consider that all-too-happy ending.
There’s a variety of opinions out there on sad vs. happy endings. One article says that sad endings are more emotional and better able to connect with readers. A Reddit thread posed the question of what ending types were preferred–and opinions were mixed between liking bittersweet endings, to just outright sad endings, to one user even saying they disagreed with the others and preferred the happy endings. Something else that popped-up in the consensus was that the ending should be fitting to the story itself–meaning the sad ending may not always work.
Let’s take for example a story that starts off with an alien’s tyrannical takeover of earth–but yet, the takeover is already in place at the beginning of the story. Everyone lives in sadness and chaos because of this creature, and parents lose their children on a daily basis. The good thing about this story is that it’s premise of sorrow is something that readers can relate to–but the bad thing would be to end the story on the sad note it began with, because the story falls flat if a change hasn’t occurred in its situation.
Its worth looking into the basic 3 types of endings:
Sweet endings. These are the endings to a story where everything works out. Anyone who died has either been restored to life, or they never died at all–but even with this type of ending, at least have those sad moments where a character passes away (and just bring them back later). There are exceptions, however, if you’re writing a book for very young children (possibly kindergartners) in which case death may be too strong of a subject for them to handle. And the last thing you want is an angry parent chasing you for corrupting their kid.
Bittersweet endings. This is like the sweet ending–only any characters killed are not brought back, and so your story’s heroes can’t celebrate as much as they’d want. These are actually the best types of endings in my opinion, because the reader gets a little taste of both worlds–the sadness of death, but the happiness of triumph.
Sad endings. This is where the villain wins–and the protagonist / heroes have lost severely. They could have either been imprisoned, killed–pretty much any tragedy you can think of that they won’t escape. You could try this ending if you wish–after all, I can’t tell you how to write your story–but I will say that this would leave a bitter taste in many readers’ mouths.
So which ending should you use then? The answer goes back to what we touched on earlier: the ending that best fits your tale. If your story’s started-off in an absolutely jolly world where nothing ever went wrong throughout the whole thing, I strongly suggest you use the sad ending (unless you don’t want your readers to relate to times of loss and sadness–which isn’t a good idea for your target audience).
On the other hand, if your story starts off super depressing–which we touched on earlier–you need a happy ending (a sweet, not bittersweet kind–though bittersweet too is welcome). Just be aware that depending on how much sadness you use in the beginning of your tale will depend how little of it you should use at the end.
Finally, a tale that starts off super happy, then has a middle story line of many tragic events, should end bittersweet–in fact, this is the type of story where the bittersweet ending is most required. Just think of how odd it would be to start off a tale super happy, then have a middle of severe sadness, then end the story with super happiness all over again. There was no change to the plot that way–and stories that fall flat don’t sit well with readers.
Your exercise today: take into account what we’ve discussed, and get to writing a story of your choice. If you wish to keep in mind the type of ending it should have based on the beginning, you’ll get to that a lot faster by writing an outline / summary of events to occur. It will give you the widest scope possible of seeing how your story begins, and how its ending will prove that it’s changed. One thing to keep in mind is that the change shouldn’t be too abrupt, but take time through the shortcomings and successes of characters, and how those change them throughout the course of your tale.